Future Phillies Report: Dylan Cozens, Rhys Hoskins Near Record; the Nick Williams Dilemma

Another big name is off the Future Phillies Report after graduating to the majors. Right-hander Jake Thompson, the organization's top pitching prospect, will make his MLB debut Saturday in San Diego after rattling off a 1.21 ERA in his last 11 starts at Triple A.

Thompson is the fourth legitimate prospect to be called up by the Phillies this season, joining right-hander Zach Eflin, reliever Edubray Ramos and first baseman Tommy Joseph.

And really, with how this week has gone, it would make no sense to start with anyone other than the Bash Bros. at Reading:

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OF Dylan Cozens, 1B Rhys Hoskins (AA)
Good grief. In Reading's last two games, Cozens is 7 for 9 with five homers, two triples and 12 RBIs. That's a month's worth of work for some guys.

Not to be outdone, Hoskins hit three solo homers in those two games.

There are 30 regular-season games remaining for Reading, which is a staggering 74-37. Cozens and Hoskins could both realistically reach 40 home runs. 

Cozens is hitting .286 with 32 homers, 101 RBIs, 31 doubles and a .986 OPS.

Hoskins is hitting .284 with 33 homers, 98 RBIs, 24 doubles and a .953 OPS.

The Reading record for home runs in a season is 38 by Darin Ruf in 2012. That record will soon fall unless one or both of Cozens and Hoskins are promoted to Triple A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies seem more interested in keeping both players at Double A and letting that team chase a Double A championship. It's a near lock, though, that both will start next season at Triple A.

Again, it's worth mentioning that 48 of the duo's combined 65 home runs this season have come at Reading's homer-friendly ballpark, where the air and wind causes many fly balls to just drift and drift and drift their way out. Cozens' slugging percentage is 402 points lower on the road (.415) than at home (.817). Hoskins is slugging .503 on the road compared to .673 at home. 

Combined, the Bash Bros.' slugging percentage is .744 at home and .458 on the road. That's impossible to overlook.

And yet still, 30-plus homers is 30-plus homers.

The concern with both players is the large number of strikeouts. Hoskins has reduced his strikeout rate in each of the last three months, from 27 percent in May to 20 percent in June to 19 percent in July. But Cozens continues to K at a high clip — he had 33 in 100 plate appearances in the 24 games before exploding the last two nights.

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do in the final two months with Williams, their top outfield prospect who is hitting .282/.312/.466 with 27 doubles, five triples, 12 homers and 57 RBIs in 424 plate appearances with Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies don't currently have a glaring need for Williams, nor would it matter much if they did. They've shown this year that the top prospects will be called up only when they're ready, not because the major-league club has a deficiency somewhere. 

But the Phils must add Williams (and Cozens) to the 40-man roster this winter or else they'd both be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft. There is no chance the Phils let that happen. Since they need to add Williams to the 40 anyway this winter, calling him up in September would make obvious sense.

It's intriguing, the way the Phillies are building this outfield. About 18 months ago, even the most optimistic Phillies supporter wouldn't have envisioned it. But Odubel Herrera has turned into a valuable top-of-the-order hitter; Aaron Altherr is versatile, powerful at the plate and instinctive defensively; and Williams comes with more hype than both of them.

At this point next year — heck, at this point next month — the Phillies' outfield could consist of Herrera in center, Altherr in right and Williams in left. That trio possesses a whole host of skills. Herrera's plate selection and ability to hit the ball to all fields makes him almost slump-proof. Yes, he'll go through lulls, as he has in 2015 and 2016, but his skill set prevents them from being long. 

Then you have Altherr's power and speed, and Williams' potential to be a 40-double, 20-homer guy. 

How it all shakes out defensively is unknown. Altherr is a more natural centerfielder than Herrera and over a full season the difference between the two defensively would show. Williams also feels most comfortable in center.

It's highly unlikely that Herrera, who played second base in the Rangers' farm system, will move back to that position. He wasn't regarded as a strong defender at second and that was one of several reasons he was unprotected by the Rangers in the December 2014 Rule 5 draft. 

Herrera could eventually move to left field, but many players consider the reads in LF to be the most difficult of all three outfield spots. We've seen many examples across baseball in recent years of young players coming up and manning center field right away, or guys switching from the infield to center field (Herrera, Trea Turner, Ian Desmond). It goes against conventional wisdom, but center field might actually be the easiest outfield position to play as long as you have some speed.

The Phillies have moved Williams around all season to create as much versatility as possible. He's played 39 games in left field, 36 in center and 25 in right. 

Williams' weakness continues to be plate selection. He has one walk and 36 strikeouts in his last 41 games.

SS J.P. Crawford (AA)
Unlike Williams, Cozens, Andrew Knapp and Mark Appel, Crawford would not be eligible to be plucked away in the Rule 5 draft this winter if he's not added to the Phillies' 40-man roster. 

The Phillies can be with Crawford what he's been for them: patient. The top prospect has walked seven times in four games this month and has 16 in his last 23 games. Crawford has 65 walks and 63 strikeouts this season, giving him 225 BB's and 226 K's in his four-year minor-league career.

In 460 plate appearances this season, Crawford has hit .260/.366/.355, spending the majority of the year at Triple A as a 21-year-old. There are still some things to work on. It's been 17 games and 70 plate appearances since Crawford's last extra-base hit. He doesn't project to be a big power guy, but the hope is that he can get to 30 doubles in a season. 

Defensively, Crawford has committed seven errors over the last calendar month (27 games) after making just two in his first 40 games at Triple A. Still, he's been more reliable defensively this season than he was last.

C Jorge Alfaro (AA)
It's tough to instill plate selection in a prospect who's spent his entire life mashing. It's what the Phillies are going through right now with Williams and with Alfaro, both acquired from Texas in last summer's Cole Hamels trade.

Both have hit well this season, with Alfaro carrying a .288/.328/.464 line into the weekend. But like Williams, Alfaro has seldom walked this season (17 BB's, 77 K's in 345 plate appearances).

Alfaro, 23, has the type of strength and power that go beyond the box score. His 12 home runs are a far cry from teammates Cozens and Hoskins, but Alfaro's power shows up in different ways. He has the strength to get jammed and still power the ball into the outfield for a base hit. He hits line shots up the middle or in between shortstop and third base with regularity. When evaluating a minor-league player, those signs are more important than stats.

Alfaro is going to be a good one someday soon. He'll probably spend next season at Triple A. The Phillies are in no rush to bring him up because their catching situation is solid with Cameron Rupp emerging into one of the game's top offensive backstops. 

If all three of Rupp, Alfaro and Knapp stay healthy and continue on their current paths, the Phillies will eventually have to make some decisions, such as possibly moving Rupp or Knapp to first base or making a trade. But there's no urgency to make that decision this winter. The Phils will let it play out.

Knapp is having just an OK year at Triple A, hitting .266/.332/.392 with 17 doubles and seven homers in 349 plate appearances.

CF Roman Quinn (AA)
Quinn returned to Double A on Thursday night after going 11 for 22 with five steals in six rehab games in the Gulf Coast League. In his first game back with Reading, he went 1 for 5 with a strikeout.

Quinn missed nearly six weeks with an oblique strain. When healthy, he's been a solid player everywhere he's been in the Phillies' farm system. This season, he's hit .286/.357/.414 at Double A with 25 steals in 31 attempts.

The Phils are hoping Quinn can stay on the field and produce over these final two months to create some confidence heading into 2017. Quinn will be 24 next May. If not for all the leg injuries the last few years, he'd be farther along the developmental path and the Phillies would have a better idea of how he fits into their future.

Right now, Quinn is the wild card in their outfield plans. He's the most natural leadoff prospect the Phils have had in years, probably dating back to Michael Bourn.

RHP Nick Pivetta (AA)
Think the pitchers at Reading enjoy having that offense behind them? Pivetta, the return in last summer's Jonathan Papelbon trade, impressed again in his last start Tuesday, allowing two runs over 7⅔ innings to improve to 10-6 with a 3.55 ERA. 

With 106 strikeouts and 37 walks in 119 innings this season, Pivetta has the highest strikeout rate and lowest walk rate of his pro career. This is exactly what the Phillies sought in the Papelbon trade: A pitcher with upside who they hoped could figure things out in their system. 

Given how poorly the Nationals' side of that Papelbon deal has turned out — his 4.28 ERA forced Washington to trade for another closer in Mark Melancon — the trade is already looking like a win for the Phils.

RHP Victor Arano (AA)
Arano, the right-handed reliever acquired in the 2014 Roberto Hernandez trade, was promoted to Double A Reading this week after a strong showing with High A Clearwater. He pitched a scoreless inning Wednesday in his Eastern League debut.

In 63 innings with Clearwater, Arano had a 2.29 ERA with 71 strikeouts and just 15 walks. 

Arano throws his fastball in the 91 to 94 mph range and has a decent slider. He's been dominant this season, his first as a full-time reliever. This is more common in the minors, but 24 of Arano's 36 appearances this season have been longer than an inning.

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